One year ago today...
As I showered I watched the Limpopo River move slowly and thickly passed Scott in the hammock. I spotted a small pod of hippos to the left, and a solitary Kingfisher gliding just inches above the water. I thought of Eve Jackson’s words of wisdom. I may never have this view again, so I lingered, trying to etch every frame to my memory.
After toweling off and dressing, I began to prepare the Landy for storage. “Why are you doing that now?” Scott asked somewhat irritably from the hammock. We still had several weeks together before I left Africa, and Scott would be with Ndoto for another month after.
As I went through every inch of the Landy—the library, the pantry, our clothes bins, the secret places, and the super secret places that we keep spare cash, credit cards and passports—I began collecting all the important documents, portable hard drives, laptops, wallets… all the valuable stuff, and I put it all in one sack and place it inside my clothes bin. Scott, absorbed in Tony’s book, didn’t notice my somewhat irrational behavior. He wouldn’t have understood. I didn’t understand. But, like an expectant mother who compulsively nests, or like a Boy Scout who wants to be prepared, I couldn’t stop myself.
In just two weeks, I would be returning home while Scott stayed on in South Africa for a month to do a wildlife course. I lay awake, realizing that soon we would be apart for an entire month. As part of “our story” it didn’t feel right. For 40 years we have done most every adventurous thing together. We sailed our 40’ catamaran named Different Drummer across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. We trekked in the Himalayas. We transited Africa from Casablanca to Cape Town by public transportation. We rafted the Grand Canyon and walked the Camino de Santiago. That we would now be apart felt like a disturbance in the Force. I knew that if I had said out loud, “I want you to come home with me,” he would have. But as much as I wanted him at my side, I also wanted him to fulfill his dreams. Still I was losing sleep over it.
That morning, as so often happens when I am in Africa, feelings of gratitude and contentment washed over me. I am exactly where I want to be doing exactly what I want to do with the only person I can imagine wanting to do it with.
I sat in silence enjoying the dawn chorus of birds announcing their territories. Warm rays of a rising sun beam worked like a spotlight on a kingfisher, that hovered and dove into the river. “Hey! He got a fish!”
Scott and Ant eventually made their way over to the Sky Jeep, the reason why we were there. The plane looked in fine shape, ready to help save rhino and elephants from being poached in Tanzania. As they plane talked, Ant and Scott lost track of time, but I didn’t. It was getting darker by the minute.
"Clare, what's wrong? What has happened?"
“Auntie Teresa," she repeated. "Colin died.”
On the departure board in Johannesburg I had noticed that there was a flight leaving for Dubai in ten minutes. I begged the powers that be to hold the plane for us but they said it was impossible. So we had to wait several hours for our connecting flight. At the gate Scott explained to the ground staff that we were returning home due to a tragic loss of a family member and they found a way to have us sit together. Thank God. I don’t remember a thing from that 10-hour flight. We landed in Abu Dabai and waited again for a connection. It’s a blur. The 17-hours of flights to San Francisco, I don’t remember being on a plane. Then it was an hour by car to San Jose.